My grandfather is beginning that last great adventure this life has to offer. He’s in the process of dying.
I call it a process, because it truly is. There is no stagnant, stationary thing called dying. The word itself implies process towards an inevitable conclusion. You do not die and that is the end of it. You commence dying until your breath, your spirit is no more a part of this temporary existence.
This is a post I’ve tried several times over the course of these last weeks, to write. Every time I begin, the screen blurs and I attempt to discover why my computer stopped working. Then I realize it’s not my computer.
My grandfather was born in a different time. He saw the Great Depression, World War II, and the rise and fall of world leaders. He not only saw them, he experienced every one of these events hands on. He worked as a young boy, bringing in money to help his family out of tough spots–and his parents weren’t caught by Social Services for “abusing” their child’s rights. He got either an 8th grade or high school education, but college wasn’t something he felt entitled to. Instead, he worked his butt off and started from the bottom up. He joined the navy, traveling in the Pacific on a massive battleship, enduring danger and hardship (and whipping his fellow soldiers at every card and dice game known to man–at least that’s how HE tells it). After the war, he learned the insurance business and became a mink farmer to take care of his new bride and the fast growing brood of children that would become 14 sons and daughters. He built his farm from the bottom up, enduring heat and cold and backbreaking labor to succeed with only his own, strong hands. He even found time to serve on several boards, stay involved in his kid’s school stuff, and found a credit union with several other prominent businessmen in their small town.
My grandfather is such a strong man. He’s been a pillar of faith and family togetherness for so long. Don’t get me wrong. I know all too well that he is only human. I’ve seen him at his best AND his worst. He was not always easy to get along with when I was growing up, but somewhere inside of myself, I KNEW he loved me. Me and all the rest of his beloved family.
And now, I have the distinct honor and privilege of helping to take care of him at the end of his life. I will be using my nursing skills over the course of this next year as he enters that final stage of this life–that final, unknown chapter.
He’s ready to go. He’s said so over and over again. I think he’s just waiting until he gets home to his beloved farm to say goodbye for the last time.
Oh God, I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. I thought I was, because I know HE is. Watching him get more and more frail, seeing him lose his independence and strength, I’ve been preparing for quite a while to say goodbye. Somehow knowing that the end is so very near makes it that much harder for me. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for him.
There are a lot of people who don’t think it’s best for him to die in his own home. It would be easier, more convenient to let professionals take care of him in a skilled facility. And coming from a skilled perspective, I see sense in that–to a small degree. Having his family take on most of the burden of his cares and needs–that’s not an easy or convenient decision to make.
It’s also the most loving, AMAZING, selfless decision anyone could make. Will it be easy? No. Of course not. If we wanted easy, the nursing home would be his only option. He would be surrounded by strangers in a sick, dying atmosphere with every last shred of his dignity stripped from him in the final days.
I know what my choice would be…thank God, he is lucid enough to still make that decision.
This way, he will be surrounded by the family he loves, being cared for by the hands of those who know him and love him best. And in this small, dignified act, he can die in peace, bathed in grace and sacrificial love.
Now, all that needs to be done is for us all to forgive and heal and say goodbye. I pray to God it’s in that order.